Restaurant Menu Ideas that Really Work


Restaurant Chalk Menu Board | Culinary Business Strategy Blog
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By Deagon B Williams

Coming up with new restaurant menu ideas is something I love to do because there are a million options and so much freedom to play. However, anything that ends up on your menu must be filtered through the brand of your restaurant. When you are looking at developing new items for your menu you must examine the context in which you’re working first, in order to come up with the ideas that will really work.

For example, you have to understand your brand and the type of cuisine that your restaurant is serving to make sure that you are playing in that arena. Next, you need to understand what else on the menu is selling well and what is selling poorly. Finally, take a look at your customer demographics- what do you know about their tastes and preferences?  All this information will help you zero in on menu ideas that really work.

I worked with a restaurant in San Francisco that specializes in Mac n’ Cheese. It was known for its Mac n’ Cheese for 10 years and for many of those years it also out sold the entire rest of the menu. But times have changed, the surrounding businesses have changed, and the Mac n’ Cheese was no longer the fastest seller.  They needed to develop some new menu ideas!

While they noticed the decline in Mac n’ Cheese sales they also noticed a decline in overall food sales. Hmm? What to do. Well, as it turns out their clientele had become much more female and less male. From this we guessed that women were coming to this restaurant for the same casual food brand that the men were, except they had a different idea about casual comfort food. And so we changed the menu by coming up with restaurant menu ideas that still fit the brand and the category, but that were more friendly to a female clientele- a little lighter, a little healthier.

Suddenly there were no longer a million menu ideas but instead about 15-20 that were within brand and category, within season, and well known enough to be called comfort food.  So, use the lens of the brand, information about what is selling already, and knowledge about your target market, and generate menu ideas from within that framework. Let me know how it goes!

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